World Bulletin / News Desk
Israeli police close Al-Aqsa to settlers: Palestinian official
AL-QUDS (AA) – Israeli police closed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to Jewish settlers on Wednesday following clashes in the area between Israeli police and Palestinians, a Palestinian official has said.
"Israeli forces withdrew from the compound and closed the Al-Magharbeh Gate to settlers trying to force their way into the area; calm returned following the clashes," Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director-general of the Organization for Muslim Endowments and Al-Aqsa Affairs (run by the Jordanian government), told Anadolu Agency.
"I asked the Israeli police to close the gate on Thursday to stabilize the area, especially since Wednesday's intrusions [by Jewish settlers] weren't justified," al-Khatib said.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli forces forced their way into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem), triggering clashes with Palestinians inside.
According to eyewitnesses, clashes broke out after Israeli security personnel stormed the holy site in an apparent bid to disperse Palestinians who have been camped out inside the compound for days.
The sit-in came in response to calls by Palestinian groups and figures to defend Al-Aqsa from threats by extremist Jewish groups, which have called on supporters to force their way into the holy compound during the current Jewish Passover holiday (April 14 to 22).
Dozens of buses carrying Jewish settlers arrived outside the compound earlier Wednesday, witnesses said.
In a statement, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage, a Palestinian NGO, said at least 45 Palestinians had been injured by Israeli troops who used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse them.
A young Palestinian was also arrested and taken away for interrogation, the NGO – which is devoted to safeguarding Al-Aqsa from Israeli violations – added.
The Israeli authorities, for their part, said Palestinian youths had pelted Israeli troops with stones, leaving one policeman slightly injured.
On Friday, Mufti of Al-Quds Sheikh Mohamed Hussein called on Palestinians to camp out in the Al-Aqsa complex this week following threats by extremist Jewish groups to force their way into the holy site.
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers, often accompanied by Israeli security forces, have repeatedly forced their way into the Al-Aqsa complex. The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied Al-Quds during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.Last Mod: 16 Nisan 2014, 14:29